In an interview for the current issue of Texas Monthly, Piñata Protest frontman Álvaro del Norte pointed out that San Antonio is “like another New Orleans, but we’re very much overlooked.” He’s right, of course. The mastery of a specific form of Tex-Mex music in San Antonio is distinctive and exceptional, and the list of icons is long: “the lark of the border” and first lady of Tejano, Lydia Mendoza; the “Jimi Hendrix of the accordion,” Esteban “Steve” Jordan; brown-eyed soul legend Sunny Ozuna; Sir Douglas Quintet founder Doug Sahm; Tejano superstar Emilio Navaira; accordion gods Flaco Jiménez and his brother Santiago Jiménez Jr. (and his father, Santiago Jiménez Sr.). Anyone who has watched couples dance at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center’s Tejano Conjunto Festival can attest to the deep pool of talent alive in the city, from Roberto Pulido and Eva Ybarra to Los Texmaniacs and Joel Guzmán.
Of course, many of today’s San Antonio musicians are blending traditional Tex-Mex with new forms, and in the playlist below, you’ll find new genres among the classics. The Last Bandoleros (Emilio Navaira’s sons) depart from their father’s music, where Rio Jordan (Esteban Jordan’s sons) continue their father’s legacy. And even where you don’t hear Tejano or conjunto specifically, you can still hear the San Antonio in punk acts like Fea and Piñata Protest and in hip-hop groups like Third Root and Diego Bernal. When rapper Carlton Zeus breaks into “Volver, Volver” or name-drops Freddy Fender, ask yourself: Where else but San Antonio would someone combine all these elements?
This playlist could be much longer. But for those who aren’t familiar with the city, here’s an audio snapshot of some of its best working musicians.
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